COURT HOUSE – The county’s Department of Aging and Disability Services’ assists residents 60 years of age or older and/or disabled senior citizens with a variety of different issues including navigating the complex world of Medicare. Through the SHIP program, staff of the Department are certified as counselors to answer questions about Medicare Part A, B, C, and D benefits and or claims, as well as, supplemental policies. They are also one of the first lines of defense against Medicare fraud.
“Unfortunately, the SHIP program could be in jeopardy. In early June, the US Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to totally eliminate the $52.1 million that funds the national program,” explained Kristine Gabor, Freeholder liaison to the Cape May County Department of Aging and Disability Services.
“In 2015, the Cape May County Department of Aging and Disability Services handled 3,785 SHIP related activities. Not all of those contacts would have been resolved by calling 1-800-Medicare. In fact, 2008 of the contacts were in the office and 179 were home visits,” Gabor said.
“In fact, if a call is too complicated to discuss over the phone, the caller is often referred to a SHIP counselor for more detailed attention. As with 1-800-Medicare, there are also limits to Medicare.gov. Many older consumers do not have computers or are not computer savvy,” she added.
Cape May County has the highest percentage of seniors in New Jersey. A quarter of the population or 25% of the people living here are 65 years or older. Currently, there are 26,037 Medicare beneficiaries in Cape May County. Medicare is also available to individuals under 65 who are disabled as determined by the Social Security Administration and receiving Social Security Disability benefits for 24 months.
At this time, all of the staff working in the Information and Assistance unit of the Department, as well as, one volunteer and other office staff are State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) certified.
“It is crucial to the Medicare recipients of Cape May County that the SHIP Program remain intact. SHIP counselors give the consumers the information in a clear and neutral format, so that they can make their own informed choices. Our consumers come to us because they trust us,” Gabor said. “I urge all Cape May County seniors, their family members, caregivers, or friends to contact their representatives in Congress to stop the elimination of the SHIP Program funding.”
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